Tag Archives: Ian Mennell

Tammy 5 November 1983

Tammy cover 5 November 1983

  • Lucky By Name… (artist Juliana Buch, writer Malcolm Shaw)
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • Glenda’s Glossy Pages (artist Tony Highmore, writer Pat Mills)
  • Room for Rosie (artist Santiago Hernandez, writer Alison Christie)
  • Remember November… (artist Len Flux, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • The Button Box (artist Mario Capaldi, writer Alison Christie, sub-writer Ian Mennell)
  • The Dawn Horse – a Pony Tale (artist Hugo D’Adderio, writer Chris Harris)
  • Spell of Fog (artist Tony Coleman, writer Jake Adams)
  • The Crayzees (artist Joe Collins)

This was the last Guy Fawkes issue Tammy ever published, and it is bang on 5 November. Tammy dropped Bessie and Wee Sue in 1982, so they are no longer able to provide any special stories for Guy Fawkes. We have a Guy Fawkes feature, “Remember November…” and in “The Crayzees” we learn Miss T does not like fireworks because they are so noisy. So what is in that mystery parcel she has ordered for 5 November? Joe Collins was always one for incorporating the Fireworks Code into his Tammy cartoons and this one is no exception. It is written all around the border of the full-page cartoon. We also have a recipe for a Bonfire cake in “Tammy’s Tasties”.

Room for Rosie had her Guy Fawkes story in the Halloween issue, but there is some carryover this week. Rosie has taken damage from the bonfire party, so her chances of a home have been reduced. Can Pauline find a way to restore her?

A new Pam of Pond Hill starts. It would have been nice if Jay Over had written a Pam of Pond Hill Guy Fawkes story, which is something Pam never had. Instead, Pam and her friends find themselves being roped into a cookery contest by Jenny Bates, who is using the excursion to see her favourite pop group, the Phonees. Moreover, Jenny has chosen them more for their good nature than their talent for cooking. They decide to go along with it because they are under the impression Jenny’s days are numbered and it’s her dying wish. Actually, it looks suspiciously like Jenny’s playing on their sympathy. Anyway, Jenny’s reason for entering them all in the contest is selfish and not giving any thought to winning for the school – which they don’t have much chance of.

In “Lucky By Name” everyone is now thinking Lucky the foal has some strange power over animals. Snobby Amanda and her father demand the foal be examined by a research institute but Lucky’s owners refuse because the institute has an unsavoury reputation for animal experimentation. Now someone is stealing Lucky, and we strongly suspect Amanda and her father are behind it. Lucky, if you really do have a power over animals, now might be a good time to use it…

This week’s episode of “Glenda’s Glossy Pages” was drawn by Tony Highmore instead of Mario Capaldi. Capaldi must have been unavailable for some reason, but he returns in the next episode. In the story, the power of the glossy pages drives off the police who think Glenda stole the items she mysteriously got from the catalogue, but they warn she hasn’t heard the last of them. Next, it looks like the catalogue is helping Glenda by giving her the confidence to swim against her arch-enemy Hillary. But when Hillary suddenly develops cramp, Glenda finds herself just swimming off instead of helping. What the hell has come over her? Well, it’s not hard to guess, especially as Glenda is at a loss to explain it herself but just can’t help it. We rather suspect the same thing is behind Hillary’s cramp too.

The Button Box gives us more Jackson family history this week. This time it’s a World War II story on how gran’s sister met her husband – all through one of the buttons in the box, of course.

This week’s pony tale is a sad one and based on fact. It discusses the last of the Tarpan horse breed in the Ukraine. Sonja and her father travel to the Ukraine in search of the Tarpan breed – only to find the Tarpans are on the brink of extinction and two parent Tarpans being shot by farmers pushes them over the edge.

In “Spell of Fog” Sally is convinced the mysterious rising mist is Alice Compton’s angry response to the sensationalised, historically inaccurate filming of her persecution for witchcraft. But the filming continues, so the mist intensifies. It’s got everyone scared and has even shattered a window.

Beforehand, we are introduced to Alice’s sad-looking self-portrait, the only one of her pictures to survive her burning at the stake. It seems her “extremely modern, natural style” was too far ahead of its time; people called it “the Devil’s likeness” and it sounds like this is one of the reasons why she was branded a witch. The self-portrait is clearly a plot thread to be followed up, but will it be in a way that tells us anything about the mist?

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The Button Box [1982-84]

Sample Images

Button Box 1Button Box 2Button Box 3Button Box 4

Tammy: 20 November 1982 – 16 June 1984

Artist: Mario Capaldi

Main Writer: Alison Christie

Sub-writers: Ian Mennell and Linda Stephenson

The button box is a Jackson family heirloom, and every single button in the box has a story behind it. When Beverley Jackson becomes confined to a wheelchair after a road accident, Gran gives her the box so Bev can use the stories to occupy her mind and cheer herself up whenever she is feeling down. Bev knows all the stories by heart (she must have a photographic memory or something) and every week she dips into the box for a story to tell. The stories have accumulated not only over the years, but the centuries as well – and they are still growing as Bev makes her own additions from her assorted holidays, friends, teachers, penpals, and even celebrities. Some new additions are being made even as an episode unfolds. In these cases the narrator is the donor, who is telling Bev the story before donating the button to the box.

The buttons come from all walks of life, social classes and cultures across the world and centuries. Therefore the buttons can be used as vehicles to explore a multitude stories that are set in a whole variety of backgrounds, cultures and eras. Since people of both sexes and all ages use buttons, readers get a multitude of different types of people starring in a Button story, including soldiers, beggars, teachers, celebrities, performers, lovers and even a boy or two. The buttons are also educational. For example, readers get snippets of information about the history of buttons and the things people used to do with them. Among them are the game of “touch buttons”, from the bygone days when kids played with everyday items, and charm-string buttons, which were popular with American ladies in the 19th century. The person to add the last button to the string and finish it was the husband-to-be.

A number of the buttons are directly linked to Bev’s family history. The Black Glass button tells the story of how her grandfather and grandmother met; the Black Op-Art button does the same for Bev’s parents. If Bev gets married, no doubt there will be yet another button to tell that tale. The very first button story, that of the Broken Pink Button, tells readers that Bev’s gran wanted a sewing kit for her sixth birthday but her mother said she is too young for it. Gran proved otherwise by sewing the pink button on her cardigan. Sure enough, she got the sewing kit for her birthday. During her birthday party the button got broken, but grandmother keeps it as a “precious memory”.

The buttons tell stories to entertain, educate, inspire or chastise, but nearly always they have a moral of some kind. For example, many buttons tell rags-to-riches stories, such as the Coin Button and Imitation Jewel Button. In these cases their owners kept the buttons to remind them of their origins and keep their feet on the ground. Pity coachman Billy Lowe of the Coachman’s Button tale didn’t do that. Lowe marries into the nobility and becomes so arrogant he turns into a monster. Then, when he is given a coachman’s button (a shopping muddle) it reminds him of his coachman origins and thereafter he wears the button inside his sleeve to keep reminding himself. Bev’s friend, Prue Holt, who has overheard the story and realised she let her own good fortune go to her head, starts doing the same.

Even when a button starts as a mere novelty item it ends up teaching the very message it exhibited as a novelty. One is the Liar Button, which is inscribed with the words, “YOU LIAR”. It is a novelty button but it was actually used to punish a girl who told lies to impress her friends. The T Button is simply a button inscribed with a letter “T”, but it became attached to a story featuring “T’s”. Tara is nicknamed “The Tomorrow Girl” because she is an habitual procrastinator. Then Tara gets a shock when she thinks she has put off one thing too many and become indirectly responsible an accident. Fortunately it turns out to be a false alarm, but Tara resolves to become “Tara the Today Girl”.

Bev is only too happy to give buttons away to people who need them. The Walnut Button which Bev gave to a newcomer named Tara is unusual because the button came into her collection with no known story to tell, but left her collection with one: “The Cracking of Tough Nut Tara”. Tara is so affected by grief that she freezes up and refuses all offers of friendship to avoid further hurt. On her birthday, when the only presents she has received are from her parents, the tough nut finally cracks, realising that she has only made herself even more miserable. Bev takes pity on Tara and gives her a special birthday card with the walnut button sewn on to make a point about what a tough nut she has been. One can just see Tara showing the walnut button to another girl who is rejecting friendship and telling its story to her.

Other buttons tell stories of inspiration, courage, and even equal rights. The motto of the Ladybird Button is “never give up”. The Dog’s Nose Button is an instruction in overcoming stage fright, which Bev uses to buck her mother up when she is nervous about giving a speech. Southpaws will cheer the story of the Daisy Button. In the 1920s, Lena Brown loves sewing but hates her school sewing lessons because the teacher keeps forcing her to sew right-handed although doing so makes her sewing suffer. The teacher is silenced when Lena wins a prize for sewing a blouse left-handed after breaking her right arm.

There are heaps of buttons that warn against judging on appearances. The Volcano Button tells us not to underestimate people who seem shy. The Rusty Raincoat Button and Snake Button warn against intolerance and not being hasty to judge people just because they seem different.

On a related theme, some button stories leave you thinking about something in a different light. The Warden’s Button reminds us that traffic wardens are human beings just like us; they just do an unpopular job. If you think Girl Guides are stuffy and uncool, the Guide Button will have you thinking again; its story relates how a lost dog was reunited with its owner thanks to guide training.

Button stories about kindness and generosity being returned manifold are one of the most popular themes in the strip. For example, the story about Austrian “Tinies” Buttons is about a selfish girl who learns to share her toys when she sees what a poor girl has for a toy – a lump of wood done up as a doll. And if you think you are not talented at anything, the story of the Imitation Jewel Button teaches you that if you are kind, you have the greatest talent of all.

The Acorn Button and Ivory Buttons teach environmental messages, and you could say the Barrel Button has a message about recycling. When a friend is about to throw an old barrel on a bonfire, deeming it useless, Bev stops her with the barrel button story to demonstrate how useful a barrel can be. In the story, a water barrel helps save the day when an American pioneering family is hit by rustlers. The barrel gives its name to the frontier town that springs up soon afterwards.

Even when the button story conveys no explicit moral, one can still be implicit. For example, Bev tells the story of the Eye Button to entertain a child, but we can hear a moral in the story: think outside the box. Nina’s dream of becoming a nurse is shattered because she does not meet the physical requirements. Nina’s parents advise her to set her mind on something else, but she cannot. Then, when Nina uses an ‘eye’ button to mend a toy, an astute neighbour spots the solution. Through her, Nina does become a nurse – at the dolls’ hospital. The Eye Button is one of the button stories on how some of the buttons got people launched on new jobs and careers.

One of the more amusing button stories is the Mattress Button, and its story of how greed (and not caring for your relatives) brought its own punishment. A grasping couple are waiting for their uncle to die so they can seize the fortune he has stashed somewhere. What they don’t know is that the money is hidden in his bedroll – which they have just thrown into a bonfire!

Not all the button stories come from Bev’s collection. She collects button stories during visits, holidays and public exhibitions. A golf club exhibits buttons that were specially made to promote equal rights for women golfers. A priceless dress decorated with pearl buttons is being auctioned and the pearl buttons carry another rags-to-riches story. The Button Church gets its name from three silver buttons given by a poor girl because they were all she had to give. The buttons become an inspiration for the vicar when the church is bombed during the war and has to be rebuilt. The three silver buttons are set in the wall of the church, reinforcing Christ’s message of giving all you have.

Since we have a disabled girl as the star of the show, it is not surprising that a number of the buttons tell stories about the disabled. One example is the Star-Shaped Button. When Emma Drake goes blind she spends a whole year brooding, calling herself a “useless cabbage,” refusing to help herself and spurning her parents’ every attempt to buck her up. Finally, Emma changes her mind when her enhanced sense of feel leads the police to the robber who burgled the house. Bev gives the star button to her friend Alison to give her confidence in starting blind school.

Perhaps the best button story of all is the Salvation Army Button, which is reproduced above. This story even prompted a letter to Tammy. The button’s appearance is dull, but Bev considers it her brightest button because the Salvation Army brightens lives, as it did for Milly Hawkins, the daughter of a Victorian beggar-woman. After being orphaned, raised in a cruel orphanage, turned out to learn her own living and finally driven to the brink of suicide, everything turns around when a retired Salvation Army officer gives Milly her jacket. Naturally, Milly joins the Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army Button may have brightened lives, but there are buttons in Bev’s collection that have actually saved lives. For example, the Soldier’s Button is about a World War I soldier who is dying from his injuries. His buttons save his life: they reflect moonlight and get him spotted by friendly locals. The Horn Buttons (made from the hooves of cattle) save the life of a tearaway boy who has got himself into one scrape too many: he is dangling by his braces and could plunge to his death unless those horn buttons live up to their promise.

The only thing missing from the button collection is the supernatural. However, Alison Christie said in an interview that she intended the strip to end with Bev regaining the use of her legs while reaching for a button, implying that there was something supernatural about the buttons all along. If this ending had been used, it would most likely have been in Tammy’s final issue before her merge into Girl. However, it never happened due to Tammy’s sudden disappearance after 23 June 1984 from a strike. The last published Button Box story appeared 16 June 1984 and was a regular story. No Button Box story appears in the last published issue of Tammy.

Tammy turns 12: 5 February 1983

Tammy 5 February 1983

Cover artist: John Armstrong

  • Romy’s Return (artist Juliana Buch, writer Charles Herring)
  • ET Estate (artist Guy Peeters, writer Jake Adams)
  • Bella (artist John Armstrong, writer Primrose Cumming)
  • Bridge of Heart’s Desire (artist Trini Tinturé) – complete story
  • In the Fourth at Trebizon (artist Diane Gabbot, writer Anne Digby) – first episode
  • The Witch Wind (artist Hugo D’Adderio) – complete story
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • Nanny Young (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • Cuckoo in the Nest (artist Tony Coleman, writer Ian Mennell)
  • Step Lively! (feature)

Tammy turns 12 this issue, and Bella is flying high on the cover to celebrate. Only the cover celebrates Tammy’s 12th birthday though; there isn’t so much as a competition inside to commemorate. This was Tammy’s last birthday issue. She did turn 13 (which was indeed an unlucky year for her, what with her untimely disappearance from a strike), but did not celebrate it.

What is perhaps given even more commemoration is the start of a new Trebizon adaptation. Anne Digby was one of Tammy’s best writers; her best-remembered story was “Olympia Jones”. So it is not surprising that Tammy ran several adaptations of Digby’s books.

Tammy reprints two Strange Stories as complete stories, replacing the Storyteller with less appealing text boxes. “Bridge of Heart’s Desire” appeared in June and was reprinted in Jinty as a Gypsy Rose story. A Jinty reader wrote in to say her school adapted the story for a play and the teacher was very impressed. Now it appears in Tammy, but not as a Strange Story per se. Liu is upset because the Mandarin won’t let her marry her betrothed. She is told to make a wish to marry her betrothed while crossing the Bridge of Heart’s Desire, but must not speak until she is across or there will be no wish. Does the wish get granted? In a very convoluted and surprising way it is, due to Liu indeed not speaking while on the bridge.

The other story, “The Witch Wind” has an infuriating mixed message about the persecution of suspected witches. It starts out with Widow Dorrity being accused of raising storms to wreck ships, using a magical device known as a witch rope. A lynch mob goes to Dorrity’s house while Sal, who has been raised to scorn such superstitions, tries to warn her. However, Dorrity says she’s too old to run and passes on her witch rope to Sal for safekeeping. So it seems Dorrity really does have the power the mob accused her of, yet Tammy still calls her an “unfortunate old woman” for being burned alive in her own house by the mob. As for the witch rope, it eventually destroys the Spanish Armada in 1588 – something Dorrity herself seemed to prophesise to Sal.

Bella’s in a Muslim country teaching gymnastics to royal princesses. Not surprisingly, this is offending conservative Muslims, the Queen among them. The Queen does not realise her brother Suliemen is taking advantage her opposition to Westernisation to overthrow her husband and make himself the Shah. As part of his plan he has framed Bella for stealing the sacred “Tears of the Prophet”, and this week Bella nearly walks into his trap to plant them directly on her.

The formula where a girl plays dirty tricks on a friend to keep her in the background and herself in the limelight has been used less often at IPC than DCT, but “Romy’s Return” is one of the cases where it has been. This is the penultimate episode of it all, where it looks like Linda’s tricks to sabotage Romy have pushed Romy to breaking point. She snaps and starts doing things she shouldn’t have and gets into terrible trouble at school. Then Linda hears a bombshell from Romy’s father that has her realise that her sabotage may have been far more damaging than she thought.

In “E.T. Estate”, the aliens try to silence Jenny when she tries to tell everyone that there are alien doubles taking over the estate. They needn’t have bothered; nobody’s listening and they just think Jenny’s crazy. As it is, the aliens’ attack puts Jenny in hospital.

Tess just won’t stop boasting about her synchro swimming. It’s not only getting on everyone’s nerves; it also costs her the allies who had helped her to get into the swim baths after the manager wrongly banned Pond Hill pupils for vandalism.

In Nanny’s latest job, her employer, the Honourable Lady Louise Fanshawe, could lose the estate she means to pass on to her great-niece, Matilda, because of mounting debts. She managed to stave off her creditors with a “poor old dying woman” act, but by the end of the episode it looks like they are still in danger of losing the estate.

“Cuckoo in the Nest” is one of the most bonkers stories ever to appear in girls’ comics. The protagonist is a boy! Moreover, Leslie (that’s his name) is a boy who has to disguise himself as a girl (how many times have you seen that in girls’ comics?). It’s for the sake of his uncle, who is trying to cover up that he used funds an aunt sent for boarding school fees to treat Leslie instead. To make things even more complicated, the aunt had the mistaken belief that her nephew was a niece and the school was for girls. Hence the (not very good) girl’s disguise, which the nosy Sarah Mullins discovered when the school broke up for holidays. Fortunately a measles quarantine has delayed Sarah’s return to school where she is just dying to tell everyone about their having a boy disguised as a girl. But of course the quarantine won’t last forever.

Tammy 9 April 1983

Tammy 9 April 1983

Cover artist: Santiago Hernandez

  • The Secret of Angel Smith (artist Juliana Buch, writer Jay Over)
  • It’s a Dog’s Life (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Bella (artist John Armstrong, writer Primrose Cumming)
  • The Button Box (artist Mario Capaldi, (sub)writer Ian Mennell)
  • Spring into Summer! (artist Joe Collins, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • Nanny Young (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Tom Newland)
  • Princess and the Bear (artist Hugo D’Adderio, writer Chris Harris)
  • Pair Up for ‘Champions All’! – gymnastics freebie
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • ET Estate (artist Guy Peeters, writer Jake Adams)
  • Take-Away Fashion for Spring – feature

 

Tammy’s spring issue for 1983 immediately follows her Easter issue. It merits inclusion in our spread of Tammy Easter issues because of its colourful cheery cover, which is a very Easter-like cover with those cute little chicks and field full of daisies. It looks like one of the chicks is about to find out that bees are not for eating, though! Tammy also has a spring quiz. When she ran credits, we learnt it was Maureen Spurgeon who wrote the quizzes. She might have written Jinty’s quizzes too.

“It’s a Dog’s Life” and “E.T. Estate” are on their penultimate episodes. When Rowan runs away from the bullying with Riley, she finds the refuge she was aiming for is no longer available, and there’s nowhere else to go. Of course it is not long before the police catch up. It looks like back to the bullying for Riley and Rowan – or maybe not, as the final episode is next week. Meanwhile, other policemen are called in to investigate the goings-on at ET Estate, but the aliens quickly get rid of them with their hypnotic powers. Jenny and Dora are still tied up. Can nothing stop the aliens’ pod from reaching maturity? If it does, it will spell doom for all life on Earth, including the human race.

Abby, getting nowhere with her father over what she knows about “The Secret of Angel Smith” because he’s been led to believe it’s jealousy, decides to play Angel at her own game and act ruthless to get what she wants. Her plan is to force Dad to watch her on the trapeze and let her into the act – but then the trapeze snaps and Abby looks badly injured from the fall! Could Dad’s fears about losing Abby the way he lost his wife (from a trapeze fall) be prophetic after all?

This week’s Button Box tale is a sad, cautionary tale about seeking revenge without getting your facts straight first. So many revenge-seekers in girls’ comics have found out they had persecuted innocent people because they had misjudged them (or had been misled about them). And the girl in the tale (Ann Freeman) suffers for her error far more than they do. She has spent a whole year in shame, tears and guilt, and too ashamed to even write to the girl – her best friend – whom she had hurt so badly in her mistaken revenge. But it doesn’t sound like she has owned up or apologised to her friend, which is the first true step in the healing.

Bella discovers her Uncle Jed’s trick over the gym he had her believe he was renting for her when the gym owner finds her and kicks her out. (Oh, come on, Bella, you really should know have known better!) Sure enough, it was another of Jed’s schemes to make money out of Bella. Now there is a new mystery over the woman who owns the gym – she wears a mask. Bella is drawn back to her, and discovers the mysterious masked lady is a brilliant gymnast.

Nanny is still having problems over Barbara, who is jealous over her new baby brother because it seems that he’s stealing all attention from her. At least Nanny now fully understands the problem.

This week’s complete story is a cautionary tale about showing consideration to both animals and people. The officers of the Second Hussars do not heed Princess Elena’s advice to treat their soldiers considerately, as she does with the mascot bear that they mistreat. The soldiers mutiny in protest of their treatment, and when they take Elena prisoner, the bear repays her kindness by helping her escape.

In the new Pond Hill story, Goofy enters a film competition that requires a short documentary about your school. A film about Pond Hill? Now that sounds even more dramatic and problematic than a soap opera! Yep, it sure is. Goofy finds that even the stern Mr Gold goes gaga when he is in front of the camera!

Tammy & Jinty 9 January 1982

Tammy & Jinty cover 9 January 1982

  • Bella (artist John Armstrong)
  • Danger Dog – first episode (artist Julio Bosch?)
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • The Shadow of Sherry Brown (artist Maria Barrera)
  • Little Sisters – first episode (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Nanny Young – first episode (artist Phil Gascoine, writers Maureen Spurgeon and Tom Newland)
  • Bessie Bunter – Old Friends (artist Arthur Martin)
  • Molly Mills and the Unhappy New Year – Old Friends (artist Douglas Perry, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • Monster Tales: The Secret of Seafleet – first episode (artist Hugo D’Adderio)
  • Sandy – A Fresh Start – first episode (artist Juliana Buch)

We are now into the new year of the Tammy & Jinty merger. Indeed, the Molly Mills story in this issue has the New Year theme, where an old superstition causes the New Year to get off to a bad start at Stanton Hall. There is no New Year theme in the Bessie Bunter story, but there is a party theme where Miss Stackpole wants to go to a dance, but her new shoes need breaking in. Bessie volunteers to help stretch them. Of course Bessie has her own agenda in borrowing the shoes for a bit – namely, to cover her tracks when raiding the kitchen.

As part of the New Year celebrations, Tammy & Jinty bring out a lineup of five new stories (count ‘em, five!). There is little doubt that these were waiting in the wings while the merger completed other serials from both Tammy and Jinty in the first weeks of the merger.

Some months before the merger, there was a letter asking for Sandy back. The Editor replied that a new Sandy story was in hand and would be published in a few months, so stay tuned for an announcement. This meant the story was kept waiting for quite a while (wonder how many other stories were kept waiting for months before publication?). This is the third (and last) Sandy Rawlings story, and it takes the then revolutionary step of featuring boyfriends and boyfriend troubles. Sandy’s boyfriend troubles stem mainly from her father who not only still treats her like a little girl (all too common) but also chooses the boyfriends for her. To make matters worse, Dad’s choices of ‘suitable’ boyfriends for Sandy are determined by his snobby attitudes and his business connections rather than Sandy’s tastes. In this story, Dad becomes Education Officer of Birchborough, which means the family is on the move straight after Christmas. But will Sandy’s New Year be happy? Given how interfering her father can be when it comes to boyfriends, we wouldn’t bet on it.

I suspect “Little Sisters”, which also starts this issue, was originally written for Jinty as it gets an appearance in the 1984 Jinty annual. I am not quite sure why it is called “Little Sisters” as there is only one little sister, Samantha “Sam” Grey. Maybe it is meant to have us thinking “these kid sisters”. As you might have guessed, Sam’s age causes all sorts of scrapes for her older sister Carol. But there are other times when little sis is a blessing for Carol.

“Nanny Young” is the first story former Jinty artist Phil Gascoine draws for the merger. Tina Young is trying to find her first job as a nanny, but her looks (everyone thinks she looks too young to be a nanny) and even her surname (Young) are against her. How can she overcome this hurdle? Of course, this being a girls’ comics, Tina’s break comes in an unexpected and humorous manner, but when Tina sees her first family, she finds this is only the first hurdle to be overcome.

“Danger Dog” may have been originally written for Misty as it uses a Misty artist. It may have been inspired by “The Plague Dogs” or “Rats of NIMH”. Beth Harris rescues her dog Sammy from a scientific research station, but there is a fear that he may be contaminated with something from it.

“Monster Tales” is the most striking feature of the new lineup because it is so unconventional. It is a series of monster-themed stories, beginning with smugglers trying their hand at wrecking, only to encounter a sea monster that got washed up from the ship they wrecked. Afterwards they all disappear without a trace and everyone gets so frightened that they clear out of the area. I wonder if this was originally written for Misty or been inspired by her, as neither Tammy nor Jinty would run such a feature.

The stories that started in the first issue of the merger continue. Bella’s still having problems gaining points in the “Superkid” contest and the track-and-field events aren’t helping so far. Then Bella finds just what she needs – gym apparatus. After a practice on it, she surprises everyone by coming back looking a champion. Will this turn things around next week?

The jealous ghost of Sherry Brown shows she is capable of hurting even her own best friend when Katy Bishop foolishly begins to become friends with her too. Sherry’s action has put both girls in danger of drowning in the weir.

In Pam of Pond Hill, Pam’s class have been temporarily housed at St Dorrit’s while Pond Hill is closed because the foundations are under repair. But St Dorrit’s is such a super-snob school that even the caretaker looks down on them. Everyone, pupils and school staff alike, go out of their way to make it clear that Pond Hill is not welcome at St Dorrit’s. The poor Pond Hill pupils are forced to take their lessons in a substandard hut, which is leaking from bad weather in this week’s episode. After a visit from their unsympathetic headmaster, Pam tries to bridge the gap between the schools by encouraging her classmates to offer olive branches to the St Dorrit’s pupils. But she soon finds that this has opened the door to more of their bullying when they play a dirty trick with Di’s hair!

John Wagner: Interview

John Wagner is known to have worked on girls’ comics and written girls stories in the 1970s. I didn’t know of any previous interviews which had focused on this part of his career in particular: many thanks to him for answering the questions below in this brief interview.

1 I’d love to know how you got started in writing for girls’ comics, and what you did during that part of your comics career. What stories did you write? How did you balance writing comics alongside being an editor – or was that all part of what the editor was expected to do?

The girls’ comic side of my career started with Romeo, the DC Thomson romantic comic/mag, the poor sister of Jackie. Girls’ romance was just a step up from normal girls’ fare with the addition of boys. We never touched on lesbian love back then! Then when I left to go freelance with Pat Mills, girls’ stories was one of our target markets. We were given “School of No Escape” (was that in Sandie or Tammy? [that was in Sandie]) by the managing editor, John Purdie. The story had already been started, was running, but either the writer had quit, or been sacked. In any case editorial didn’t know quite how to handle it. It was quite a challenging first assignment but we made a pretty good fist of it. I helped Pat devise “School for Snobs” and write the first couple of episodes before we split up and I went to work in the IPC office in London. My only girls’ comic story after that was “Jeannie and Her Uncle Meanie”.

2 We’re always on the lookout for information on other creators of girls comics from the  time. I have already asked you for any suggestions on the name of the artist on “Slave of the Trapeze” and “School of No Escape”, which sadly for us you weren’t able to recall. Are there stories by other people that you particularly remember from that time, which you would be able to help us to credit the creators on? For instance, anything written by any of Gerry Finley-Day, Malcolm Shaw, Charles Herring, Jay Over, Ian Mennell, Benita Brown, Maureen Spurgeon?

Malcolm Shaw was my sub on Sandie for a while, quite a good, reliable one. I’m afraid I don’t remember any particular stories any of the people you mention wrote, though Gerry would have done two or three for me. Never heard of Jay Over or Benita Brown and assume Maureen then went by another surname that I can’t remember.

3 Pat Mills has fond memories and a lot of respect for specific girls’ comics titles and the hard-hitting gritty stories that ran in them. What kind of comparisons would you draw between the world of girls’ comics and that of the boys’ titles you worked on?

They were pretty different, up until Pat and I started work on Battle Picture Weekly. I refer to the IPC boys’ stories, as DC Thomson boys’ comics had some excellent stories and were almost the equal of their girls’ titles. But IPC boys’ titles had stagnated, with stories that were formulaic, repetitive, barely credible and carried very little emotional power. They paled in comparison to the stories in Judy, Mandy and especially Bunty – clever, meaty, affecting.

4 You started your comics career working for DC Thomson before moving south to IPC/Fleetway. Were there things about creating comics that you learned at DC Thomson which you were keen to bring with you to IPC, or perhaps keen to move away from? Or other memories of differences between the two publishers?

I was keen to move away from poverty! The key lesson I learned there was self-criticism. Nothing you write can’t be better. Always question yourself – am I getting the best out of that scene, those characters, is there a better way of doing things?

5 Finally, anything you can tell us about your time at Sandie would be good to know. It was a fairly short-lived title, only lasting for 89 issues. What do you think that was down to? Did you leave it as it finished, or earlier? Who else worked on it that you can recall?

My memory is that they closed it down – or merged it – on a circulation of about 180,000 (though that figure may be inflated in my mind). In any case the low cover price meant that they had to sell enormous numbers. I was told the comic was going under and that they wanted me to move on to Princess Tina (which was also dying) and revamp it in an attempt to save it. Norman Worker (I think) was brought in to see Sandie laid to rest. In turn I made an awful hash of Tina, whereupon I quit journalism to become caretaker of an estate in Scotland, never to return (I thought!).

I’ve already mentioned [in email] some of the names of Sandie staff – subs Kyra Clegg, Rhoda Miller, Malcolm Shaw. Ally McKay was assistant art man for a while, and John…John…ah, I forget, but he was art editor.

Many thanks again to John Wagner for this interview. I have a small number of issues of Sandie, which I looked at in this post. Catawiki has details on a few Sandie issues also, and the Great News for All Readers blog has posted in detail about two issues in 2016. Mistyfan also wrote a post about the advert for Sandie’s launch, and another on issue 7 of Sandie in 1972.

Tammy 11 February 1984

Tammy 11 February 1984

  • Foul Play (artist John Armstrong, writer Ian Mennell)
  • Cassie’s Coach – first episode (artist Tony Coleman but credited as George Anthony, writer Alison Christie)
  • Julie’s Jinx (artist Julian Vivas, writer Nick Allen)
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • The Button Box (artist Mario Capaldi, writer Ian Mennell)
  • Event of the Year – complete story (artist Raymond, writer Roy Preston)
  • Queen Rider – final episode (artist Eduardo Feito, adapted from book by A.D. Langholm)
  • My Terrible Twin (artist Juliana Buch)
  • Spring a Foot! – Feature (by Mari L’Anson)

The first Tammy to feature credits has recently had an entry on this blog. Now the last Tammy to have credits will be profiled as well.

Since the credits started, they have evolved and changed, sometimes in odd ways. Some of the credits were pseudonyms. For example, Tony Coleman was credited under his own name at first, but he was subsequently credited as George Anthony, as he is here. Some writers and artists did not appear under their full name. For example, the DCT artist who draws “Event of the Year” is only credited as “Raymond” (is that his first or his last name?).  Julian Vivas, who draws “Julie’s Jinx”, is just credited as “Vivas”, but his full name appears in other Tammy credits. Reprints were not credited, as was the case with “My Terrible Twin” here. Even the artist, Juliana Buch, is not credited, as she was for her new stories in Tammy. Features, such as the one about footwear on the back cover, also received credits. But it is not clear whether Mari L’Anson is the writer, the artist or both for it, because the credit just says “by: Mari L’Anson”.

When the credits first began, Roy Preston was credited with a lot of stories that had dark, supernatural themes such as “The Evil One” and “Sign of the Times”. These were probably leftover scripts from “Monster Tales” in the Tammy and Jinty merger. Preston continued to be credited with several complete stories that had a supernatural theme, such as “The Lady of Ranoch Water” and “The Moon Maiden”. But here Preston is credited with a lighter story that has no supernatural theme whatsoever: “Event of the Year”. Throughout the credit run, Preston wrote only complete stories; there is not a single serial attributed to him during this period.

Ian Mennell is credited with several mystery stories, such as “Foul Play” and “Saving Grace”, but the credits also show he was not solely confined to that genre. Mennell wrote the unorthodox male cross-dressing story “Cuckoo in the Nest” and a lot of Button Box stories, such as the one in this issue. Alison Christie, who first started Button Box, did not write all of its stories; Mennell and Linda Stephenson are also credited with Button Box stories. This is unlike the case of “Pam of Pond Hill”, where Jay Over is credited as the writer throughout.

Alison Christie remains credited with emotional stories such as “A Gran for the Gregorys” and “It’s a Dog’s Life!” throughout Tammy’s credit run. There were no stories with a more supernatural or sporty theme attributed to Christie, though her interviews revealed that she sometimes delved into those genres in Jinty. And here Christie begins her last credited Tammy story “Cassie’s Coach”. This is a Victorian-set struggle for survival after the mother is wrongly imprisoned. Her children take up the most unusual accommodation after they are thrown out of their old home – a discarded coach! Cassie is not quite as intense or disturbing as some of Christie’s emotional stories. This is probably why Tony Coleman was the choice of artist for a period story, something he does not normally draw.

 

 

Tammy 17 July 1982

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  • Cat ‘n’ Mouse – artist Joe Collins
  • Saving Grace – first episode (artist Juliana Buch, writer Ian Mennell)
  • Moonlight Prowler – complete story (artist John Richardson – uncredited)
  • Pam of Pond Hill – new story (writer Jay Over, artist Bob Harvey – uncredited)
  • A Gran for the Gregorys – first episode (writer Alison Christie, artist Phil Townsend)
  • Come Back Bindi – first episode (artist Mario Capaldi, writer Jenny McDade)
  • Bella – new story (artist John Armstrong, writer Malcolm Shaw)
  • Nanny Young – new story (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • Slave of the Clock – first episode (artist Maria Barrera but credited as Barrera Gesali, writer Jay Over)
  • The Schoolgirls’ Beauty Book – Feature

The recent entry on Jay Over was one inspiration for this entry on the Tammy issue where she starts printing credits. We owe so much to these credits, without which a lot of artists would still be unknown, including Guy Peeters and Hugh Thornton-Jones.

It looks like Tammy had a few things to iron out with the credits, because there is no credit for Bob Harvey in Pam of Pond Hill and the complete story, “Midnight Prowler”, goes completely uncredited. The credits also mark the swansong of long-standing Tammy writer Jenny McDade, who started in 1972 with “Star-Struck Sister” and wrote the first Bella story. Here McDade is credited with writing “Come Back Bindi”, but she is not credited with any other Tammy story after that.

The issue makes a completely clean break from the one before it, which was the last issue in the Tammy & Jinty merger. Instead of the merging comic just gradually fading away except for her strongest features and her logo being reduced in size before it is dropped altogether, the whole merger is dropped altogether. Gone is the Jinty logo, and there is a completely new logo for Tammy. Gone are the Monster Tales and Old Friends (which ran Molly Mills, Bessie Bunter, Wee Sue and Tansy of Jubilee Street in rotation). Even the Storyteller, who had been a long-established part of the Tammy line-up since June merged in 1974, is gone as well. Only Bella, Nanny Young, The Crayzees and Pam of Pond Hill remain. The cover itself is an artist’s rendition of an actual photograph of two readers (shown on the inside cover) who were asked to read the issue and provide feedback. “They loved it”, and they must have treasured the issue thereafter.

The old Tammy and Jinty merger clearly had been gearing up for the new look in the preceding weeks. Several stories ended in the previous issue, including the reprint of “The Human Zoo”. The reprint also cut out an episode or two from the original because of the upcoming new Tammy.

We do have to wonder what drove Tammy to undergo such a radical makeover when she was right in the middle of a merger. Was it new editorship bringing in sweeping changes, or did the editor decide on drastic action to bolster sales?

Pam and Bella have whole new adventures. Pam discovers the teachers’ frustration at the playing field being inadequate and then the land next door that the neighbour, Sir Hartley Barnett could spare. But we get the feeling that acquiring the extension won’t be as easy as that.

Meanwhile, Bella is having a mental breakdown and it is showing in her latest gymnastics performance that is so disastrous that she loses her nerve. And then she loses her memory as well after being hit by a hit-and-run driver.

Nanny Young’s new job takes her to the Glendale Children’s Holiday Home – but soon finds it is not a holiday camp with the welfare officer, Agatha Primm, running the place like an army camp! The children aren’t happy about it either, and Peter Hopkins is always out to pull a prank over it.

There must have been some scripts left over from “Monster Tales”, because the new-look Tammy continued to run complete stories with a monster theme for a while. The first is “Moonlight Prowler” and the monster is vampire-wolf, who plunders the villagers’ livestock. At least that is what Mr Wyss has the villagers believe while he makes a fortune out of them by claiming to hunt the monster. The monster is really his stepdaughter, whom he forces to wear a wolf costume for him to chase around after and secretly steal the livestock. But the fraud backfires when the real vampire-wolf shows up! It’s even implied that the fake vampire-wolf and the real one are one and the same.

The first serial to start is a mystery story, “Saving Grace”. Sue Blackstone is delighted to catch up with her old friend Grace Clark in a new school after four years apart. But then Sue discovers her friend has changed for the worse over those four years, and the mystery Sue sets out to unravel is what caused the change and whether anything can be done about it.

The second serial, “A Gran for the Gregorys”, reunites Jinty’s Alison Christie/Phil Townsend team for another tear-jerker story. The Gregory children have lost their beloved gran, and her loss is telling on the management of the household after Dad goes abroad to work. Then Ruth finds out about adopting grans and sets out to adopt one for the family. But of course the quest won’t be straightforward and there are going to be a lot of candidates who will disappoint.

The third serial, “Come Back Bindi”, was Jenny McDade’s swansong in Tammy. Bindi was a short-lived serial when it had potential to be spun out longer. Perhaps it was not all that popular or was meant to be a filler story. Bindi the dog has run away because she wrongly blames herself for her owner’s accident. However, Bindi is essential to the girl’s recovery, so finding her is urgent. But it is not easy, because Bindi has lost her collar.

The last serial is one of Tammy’s best-remembered stories, “Slave of the Clock”. Alison Thorne is a talented ballerina but doesn’t have the dedication to take her talent further. But then Alison meets a fanatical ballet mistress whose idea of making pupils more dedicated to ballet is “the power of the clock” – hypnotise them into dancing whenever they hear the ticking of a clock. Of course this can only lead to trouble.

 

 

Tammy Annual 1986

Tammy annual 1986

  • Cover artist: Mario Capaldi
  • Pam of Pond Hill (writer Jay Over, artist Bob Harvey)
  • Animal Magic (feature)
  • The Bell – Strange Story (artist Jaume Rumeu aka Homero Romeu)
  • Crayzees (artist Joe Collins)
  • The Button Box (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Wish Upon a Star (feature)
  • The Black and White World of Shirley Grey (artist Diane Gabbot, writer Jake Adams?)
  • Party Pieces (feature)
  • Bella (artist John Armstrong)
  • The Crayzees (artist Joe Collins)
  • Yule Tide – text story (artist Tony Coleman, writer Ian D. Mennell)
  • Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • Snow – poem (writer Deborah Pfeiffer)
  • What’s Your Resolution? (quiz)
  • Sally’s Secret – Strange Story (artist Veronica Weir)
  • Animal Magic
  • Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • Second Sight – Button Box story in text (artist John Johnston, writer Ian D. Mennell)
  • Animal Magic
  • ‘Make It’ a Great Year! (feature)
  • Flutter by, Butterfly! (feature)
  • Sweet Eats (feature)
  • The Crayzees (artist Joe Collins)
  • Snowy, the Christmas Snowman (feature)
  • The Crayzees (artist Joe Collins)
  • Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • Molly Mills and the Sporting Life (artist Douglas Perry)

This was the last Tammy annual, with a gorgeous cover from Mario Capaldi. Capaldi had illustrated several covers for the Jinty annual and one for the Misty annual, but this was his first – and last – cover for the Tammy annual. Could it well be the last cover Capaldi ever produced for any girls’ annual as well? By this time the IPC girls’ titles had faded and DCT had taken more of a centre stage.

Pam of Pond Hill leads off the annual with her last Christmas story. Pam and Goof are sent to collect the Christmas tree for the school. Sounds simple and foolproof? Pam and Goof find out it’s anything but.

(Click thru)

Pam 1 Pam 2Pam 3Pam 4

The two text stories, “Yule Tide” and “Second Sight” take the unusual step of crediting the writer, Ian D. Mennell. “Second Sight” is unique for being the only Button Box story ever published as a text story, and it is a story that I have always enjoyed. Carmal, an Oriental girl, starts out as a selfish rich girl. Not surprising, considering that her uncle is a rogue. She mistreats a blind busker by putting buttons in his bowl instead of coins. But karma strikes when the uncle’s victims take a revenge attack that leaves Carmal blind and alone, and she is taken in by the very same busker she had mistreated. She learns his trade, and also learns what it is like to have mean people throw worthless rubbish in your busking bowl instead of money. In the process she becomes a more considerate and kind person – and so has the uncle, once he has tracked her down.

Meanwhile, Capaldi’s picture Button Box story is about a housemaid who hates her job because she is an outdoor type. When she foils a robber (realising he left a loose button from his jacket at the scene of the crime), it opens up a new career for her as a policewoman and enjoying the great outdoors on the beat.

Talking of housemaids, the last Molly Mills annual story reprints “The Sporting Life”, an annual sports event between the villagers and the Stanton Hall staff. Normally the villagers get on well with Stanton Hall, but when it comes to sports day it is far from a friendly match. It’s a needle event, and the needles are sharper than usual because the villagers have Olympic hopefuls on their team, and then spoilsport Pickering bans the staff from training after he gets caught up in mishaps from it.

(Click thru)

molly1molly2molly3

The poem “Snow” is also given a credit. The writer is Deborah Pfeiffer. This is the only work in Tammy credited to Pfeiffer.

The reprints are taken from 1981, including Diane Gabbot’s second-to-last Tammy story, “The Black and White World of Shirley Grey”. The original run had the honour of starting in Tammy’s 10th birthday issue. Shirley Grey refuses to tell lies in the wake of an accident she irrationally blames herself for. But Shirley is taking it to such extremes that she refuses to tell even a white lie, no matter what the circumstances. You can imagine what that leads to, and it starts with the boss’s wife asking Shirley what she thinks of her dress (which is hideous!).

(Click thru)

shirley 1 shirley 2shirley 3

The annual is the one that stops the Bessie Bunter appearances. I find this a bit sad as I have always been a big fan of Bessie. Maybe there was no room for Bessie, or the editors decided she had had her day? If they did, it may reflect what happened in the regular comic. Bessie’s days became numbered in 1980 after Tammy swallowed Misty. During the merger Bessie was demoted from regular appearances to “from time to time” appearances while Wee Sue and Molly were still going strong.

(Click thru)

bella

The Bella story is more intriguing in that Tammy is taking a serious attempt to giving the colouring more of a 3-D look in the use of the hues and tones. In the previous annuals this was only applied to skin toning, but now it is being applied to everything. The story has Bella losing her confidence because she is under a cloud that she won a medal by default when her rival withdrew. Bella’s coach is handling her badly, which only makes matters worse. But of course things turn around and it ends with Bella all set to make the coach eat his words. And it’s nice to see Bella’s last annual story focus on her gymnastics and not the machinations of Jed and Gert, which were the most frequent basis of Bella’s annual stories.

In the last Wee Sue story in the annual, Sue’s final word is “’bye!.” I wonder if this is meant to be a double meaning as this is the last-ever Tammy annual, and this particular reprint chosen for this reason.

(Click thru)

sue 1sue 2sue 3a

Female writers in a girls’ genre

This is my 100th post! To celebrate, a thinky piece of the sort I particularly enjoy having the space to do here on this blog. Comments and further information very welcome indeed, as ever, but especially useful for this sort of wider coverage article.

For a genre based around a female readership, you could be forgiven for thinking there were hardly any women involved in producing British girls comics. In 1998 I first started writing about Jinty, and looking back at that article (published in feminist ‘by women for people’ zine GirlFrenzy), the few names mentioned were of men: Jim Baikie, Casanovas, Pat Mills. These were the only creators I recognized from having seen them, their work, or their commentary in the fairly male world of British mainstream comics.

Some years later I met Pat Mills in person, and he subsequently attended the Oxford-based comics festival CAPTION2004, during which I interviewed him about his editorial and authorial role in Jinty, Misty, and Tammy. Some more creator names were added to the pot, but really only two female names stood out – those of Mavis Miller and of Pat Davidson, of which Pat Davidson was the only name of a writer. (I was by then aware of Trini Tinture’s work, too.) Additionally, I’d also managed to ask Phil Gascoine who wrote “Fran of the Floods”, but he could remember no names, just that it was a female writer.

As recently as early last year, therefore, there was so little information readily available that it was still possible for Adi Tantimedh’s post on Bleeding Cool to attribute the authorship of the vast majority of stories in girls comics to Pat Mills or to ‘the creators of Judge Dredd and 2000AD’. (He subsequently corrected the article text to read ‘his fair share of the series in Jinty were written by Pat Mills.’) This isn’t helped by the fact that when in that interview Pat M did give us Pat Davidson’s name, it was linked to a fairly sweeping assessment of women writers: “Generally, it was male writers in this field. I think Pat Davidson is the only woman I can think of who genuinely had a better touch in the way she did this, she wrote far more from the heart, the rest of us were 23-year-old guys killing ourselves laughing as we wrote this stuff, but she wrote from the heart, and it was quite genuine.”

We’re now in a position where we can bring together more information so that we can bring a more nuanced analysis to bear. Alison Christie is now known to have written not only a great swathe of Jinty stories, but also to have written many stories for other titles before, afterwards, and simultaneously (very literally!). We also have heard that Veronica Weir wrote at least one story for Jinty. (We also know that one of the writers was Len Wenn, then only a few years away from his retirement age and hence also quite far from the demographic highlighted by Mills.) Generally we now know what could have been guessed before, which is that creating comics was quite a good profession for women at the time: drawing or writing comics is something that a young mother can do from home! We also know that the same people worked for a range of comics; we could have guessed that from the artists, but a writer can be working on more than one script at the same time more easily than an artist can, so they are if anything more likely to be working for multiple titles.

To try to get a view on the historical context, we can note that there are a couple of titles that ran credits for at least some of their time. Girl was the first title to be dedicated to a readership of girls: it ran from 1951-64 and included creator credits (I don’t know whether the credits continued throughout the whole run though). Towards the other end of the main period of publication of girls’ comics, Tammy also ran creator credits for a little while from the middle of 1982. I haven’t got access to any very complete information about the stories and creators in Girl, but looking at the Wikipedia page for it I found a couple of names I’m unfamiliar with – Ruth Adam and Betty Roland, who wrote a number of stories between them. These included the nursing strip “Susan of St Bride’s” and the adventure strip “Angela Air Hostess” respectively, both of which were popular stories featuring resourceful, independent female characters. Looking at Catawiki’s entries on Girl would take more time to do properly than I currently have available, but I note that a sample issue from 1955 picked randomly includes these two female writers plus two others (Valerie Hastings and Mollie Black).

Of more immediate applicability to the subject of this blog, the women who wrote for Tammy may well have done so for Jinty too; luckily for me, there is more information available to me on who did what there, as co-writer Mistyfan has kindly sent me an index of Tammy stories. We can therefore look in some detail at the comics stories running in Tammy during the second half of 1982, where we find:

  • “Bella” written by both Malcolm Shaw and by Primrose Cumming
  • “The Button Box”: created by Alison Christie, specific individual episodes written by Ian Mennell or Linda Stephenson
  • “Nanny Young” written by Tom Newland and Maureen Spurgeon
  • “Rae Rules OK”written by Gerry Finley-Day
  • “Come Back Bindi” written by Jenny McDade
  • “Saving Grace” written by Ian Mennell
  • “A Gran for the Gregorys” written by Alison Christie
  • “Slave of the Clock” written by Jay Over
  • “Tomorrow Town” written by Benita Brown
  • “Cross on Court” written by Gerry Findley-Day
  • “Cuckoo In the Nest” written by Ian Mennell
  • “Romy’s Return” written by Charles Herring
  • Out of the 12 complete stories on the Tammy index I am referring to, two seem to be uncredited while three were written by Roy Preston, four by Maureen Spurgeon, one by Chris Harris, one by Ray Austin and one by Barry Clements

That’s fairly evenly spread; there are more male writers than female overall but not by that much. A count by number of pages printed might show a different picture, but then I also haven’t included the writers of text stories (in particular Anne Digby). We can also have a quick look at the Catawiki entry for an individual issue from the time (I chose issue 600) which lists stories by Benita Brown, Anne Digby, and Maureen Spurgeon – I assume that the Anne Digby is an illustrated text story rather than a comic. Another issue, 609, has more stories by female writers: two stories by Maureen Spurgeon, one by Alison Christie, and one by Primrose Cumming. In the absence of a concerted effort to count the number of pages written by women over a few representative issues (any volunteers?) I’d estimate that some 15% – 40% of the comic at a time might have been written by women: under half of the content for sure, but a substantial section.

Clearly we only have two very solid data points here – Girl in the 50s and 60s, and Tammy in the early 80s – but the fact they corroborate each other is strongly suggestive that yes, over the decades of comics published for a readership of girls, female writers have always been present, and in reasonable numbers rather than as the odd exceptional talent. They have written popular stories both in their own right and as jobbing writers taking on someone else’s initial creation. Can we say anything else about that, for instance about what sort of stories they wrote? Now that is rather more difficult, because we have to factor in individual preferences of writers. Alison Christie is clearly a writer of heart-tugging stories, so we can attribute a female writer to a number of stories in that style. That doesn’t mean that other female writers have the same preferences: Benita Brown is credited as the writer of a science fiction story, and Veronica Weir’s one known outing as writer was on a story with spooky overtones but mostly concerned with loneliness and survival. I don’t know the Tammy stories list above well enough to say what themes they represent, but in the list of Jinty stories we just don’t know enough about who wrote what to say anything much more concrete.

Likewise, can we say anything much to compare how well the stories worked with the gender of the author – could we say that the stories made by young men killing themselves laughing were better or more effective than those by women or indeed by older men such as Len Wenn? One difficulty is that in judging effectiveness or memorability, individual reader preferences will come strongly into play – my own list of top stories is skewed to the spooky, mystical, and science fictional and away from the heart-tuggers. Mostly though I think we just don’t know enough about who wrote what, in Jinty at least, to be able to say whether the the most popular, longest-running, most memorable, or otherwise most effective stories tended overall to be written by one group of writers versus another. We have examples written by women (“Stefa’s Heart of Stone”) and by young men (“Land of No Tears”, “The Robot Who Cried”), but the vast majority still lie in the camp of ‘unknown writer’.

Writing this post has sparked off other thoughts that felt a bit tangential to the main point of this piece; I will follow up with more on ‘What makes a story work’ (and indeed how can we tell that it does work).

Edited in Aug 2015 to add: subsequent discussion on the Comics UK Forum leads me to add another known female writer to the list of names acquired to date: Jenny Butterworth, writer of the long-running series “The Happy Days” in Princess Tina (amongst other stories).

Edited in December 2015 to add: we now know that “Fran of the Floods” was not written by a female writer; it can be attributed to Alan Davidson per his wife’s recent comments. At the time of writing, Davidson was a family man who also did not fall in the category of “23 year old guy killing himself laughing” at what he was writing.

Edited in January 2016 to add: Anne Digby has sent in an interview with information about writing comic stories for titles such as Tammy. It is noteworthy that she did not only produce text stories for this title, but also comics adaptations of her previously-published novels.

Edited in March 2016 to add: Phoenix on the Comics UK forum scanned and uploaded a snippet from the Guardian of a letter from one Mary Hooper, writer for Jackie in particular, but perhaps also for other titles?

Edited in January 2017 to add: clarification that Alison Christie (Fitt) created “The Button Box” and was the main writer on the story, though some individual stories were farmed out by editor Wilf Prigmore to Ian Mennell and to Linda Stephenson.